Growing Out On A Limb


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Roasted Red Pepper Potato Soup

Oh soup, where have you been all my life?  Seriously, I have never made this much soup in my life but now that I’m on this kick I just don’t want to stop! 

When I’m roaming around for recipes, the first two stops I make are allrecipes.com (gotta love a recipe that’s reviewed) and simplyrecipes.com.  There are no ratings at Simply Recipes but there are lots of reader comments and I’ve made enough of her recipes to feel confident that she knows what she’s talking about!   

So when I went looking for a red pepper soup recipe, I went there first and found this recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Potato soup … it looked simple, without a lot of ingredients to crowd the red pepper flavor, but with the added heartiness of the potato.  I knew it would be a winner and oh, it did not disappoint. 

INGREDIENTS

4 red bell peppers, roasted and roughly chopped

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)

1 large russet potato, peeled and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)

3 cloves garlic

4 cups vegetable stock

1/4 cup milk

3 tbsp butter

Cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped onion and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the potatoes and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Add the garlic and peppers.  Stir well and cook for 2 minutes. 

Add the stock, stir, and bring to a simmer.  Cook over medium heat until potatoes are soft. 

Puree the soup until very smooth.  I use an immersion blender but you can also use a blender or food processor (in batches, if necessary). 

Over low heat, add cream, stir well, and taste.  Add cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste. 

Serves 4-6

(Garnished here with feta… yumm!)

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Banana Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

I made these cupcakes for Oliver’s birthday party with his little playgroup friends. 

The banana cupcakes (recipe here) were made a couple of weeks ahead of time and frozen (yay for being prepared), so all I had to do was pipe the icing on before the party.  And the frosting – mmmm!  What a nice change from regular cream cheese frosting.  The only change I made was to bring down the amount of almond extract a bit because it was a really overwhelming flavor.  Next time I’ll start with the 1/2 tsp and add more if I want to. 

They seemed to be a hit with the kids (okay, and the mommies too)! 

INGREDIENTS

Cupcakes

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup mashed ripe bananas

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

 

Frosting
1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

1 tbsp honey

DIRECTIONS

Cream shortening and sugar.  Add the eggs, vanilla, bananas and buttermilk.  Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to banana mixture.  Fill 18 paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove to wire racks to cool completely. 

For frosting

Melt butter and allow to cool.  Combine cream cheese, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and almond extract.  Beat with a mixer.  When mixture starts to stiffen, stop mixer and add honey.  Continue to beat until light and fluffy.  Do not over mix or it will collapse. 

Spread on cupcakes immediately and store in refrigerator. 


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A beanbag birthday

I take great pride in finding the time and making the effort to give Oliver something homemade for his birthday.  I know he doesn’t really appreciate the homemade quality of these gifts yet but I hope he will look back at some point and see the love and thought that was put into them.  In the meantime, it’s fun for me to pick out the fabrics and make the gifts (and usually a learning experience since I still consider myself a beginning sewer!). 

I didn’t intend for both gifts to fall into a “beanbag” theme.  But both of these projects have been on my list for a while and just seemed so fun for Oliver – I mean, what kid didn’t play with beanbags growing up?? 

There are a bajillion tutorials out there for alphabet or number beanbags and they are all so cute.  I really liked the look of these though, so settled on using a coarse muslin for the front and matching fabric for the applique and back.  I really like the classic look of them.  And what great practice with appliquing! 

I absolutely LOVE how this beanbag chair turned out.  And how cute is this fabric?! 

The pattern and tutorial came from here.  This was a lot of fun to sew and I love that there is a cover that makes it washable (although the velcro enclosure was a bit tricky to sew).  I am pretty sure I’ll need to make another one for Emery at some point. 

I can really tell that Oliver likes it …

… and maybe daddy too?


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Oliver’s Birthday Cake

Oliver’s Thomas-themed cake was so much fun to make and so delicious, I thought I should do a separate post on it.  I admit, at times I wondered why I was putting so much effort into a birthday party that Oliver wouldn’t remember but I really enjoy working with cake this way so … why not?  I’m pretty proud of the result. 

First, the decorations.  I started shaping the trains together a couple of weeks before the party.  They are made out of marshmallow fondant, basically smaller pieces that were shaped and then “glued” together using water.  My original plan was to pipe the faces onto the gray circles but when it came time to do them, it just wasn’t working – the piping was just too thick and not looking right.  Since the trains weren’t going to be eaten anyway, we just printed the faces and stuck them on.  I think they look great! 

A fancy decorated cake is all well and good but if it doesn’t taste good, what’s the point?  This cake is three 9-inch chocolate cakes, topped with a 5-inch cake.  The cake recipe is from here and was delicious… perfectly moist and chocolatey even two days later.  I think using chocolate chips instead of cocoa made a big difference. 

The cake was iced with white chocolate buttercream icing, found here.  This is sucha a delicous recipe, one that I’m sure I will use again and again, but be warned:  it does make a huge batch (much more than I needed, even with this much cake).  To make the cake filling, I just added raspberry puree to the buttercream icing. 

So to recap:  that’s a chocolate cake with white chocolate buttercream icing and white chocolate-raspberry buttercream filling.  Yeah… it was so good it hurt a little. 

 

 White Chocolate Buttercream Icing (makes 6 cups)

 INGREDIENTS

 3 6-oz packages white baking chocolate

1/4 cup milk

1 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

8 cups icing sugar, sifted

1/4 cup milk

 DIRECTIONS

 Microwave 1/4 cup of milk with the white chocolate for 1 minute.  Stir.  Continue to microwave 15 or 20 seconds at a time, being careful not to overcook the chocolate. 

Cream butter and shortening with an electric mixer.  Add vanilla. 

Gradually add sifted icing sugar, one cup at a time.  Beat well after each addition, being sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  When all sugar has been mixed in, the icing will seem dry. 

Add milk and beat at a medium speed until light and fluffy. 

Beat in chocolate. 

Icing can be tinted any color.  To keep from drying out, keep covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.  Refrigerate or freeze.


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Oliver’s Birthday Party!

I figure I’ll teach Oliver early that a birthday should really be more of a birth week than a birth day.  That’s the way I’ve always done it after all!  So this year we had two parties… a playgroup party with our friends and a second party with our family. 

Here are a few party highlights…

All setup for cupcakes and snacks with the playgroup gals and the kids.  More on the cupcakes later! 

Pretty bunting … scrapbook paper strung together with blue twine.  It is so bright and cheery I think I’ll leave it up for a few weeks! 

 Mmm… licorice…

… and jellybeans!   

Oliver loved his Thomas birthday cake but just wanted to stare at the lit candle.  More on the cake later.

 There were lots of really nice gifts, including this really thoughtful handpainted train from aunt ali. 

 Oh, there she is with Nana! 

Daddy’s pooped after the party! 


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Happy 2nd Birthday to Oliver!

It seems unreal that it was two years ago that I was at the hospital, awaiting your arrival.  It’s so cliched it’s sickening but I’m really not sure where those two years have gone. 

I love watching you learn new things, try new words, figure out new games.  Your little mind is like a crazy little sponge that just puts me in awe of you every day. 

 

Here are a few things about you right now…

  • You like to sing your ABCs (mommy can tell you’re musical)
  • You are starting to count things, not just reciting the numbers to ten
  • You love to eat, especially pasta and grapes and “oh-goot”
  • You are extremely good at sitting at timeout (although you rarely need to go there)
  • You are a very kind big brother and show concern and love for him already
  • Your favorite things:  trucks, buses, and trains, especially Thomas!  You like to “choo choo” all around the house and like to point out the trucks and buses when we are driving
  • You like The Wiggles and dance parties with mommy (which makes mommy verrrry happy, by the way)
  • You love to make people laugh
  • You love kisses and tickles
  • Your favorite person after mommy and daddy is “Papa” (and he loves you too)! 
  • You aren’t afraid to try new things, like words and toys
  • You are sometimes shy to play with other kids at first, maybe because you are so good at playing by yourself
  • And we found out today that you likely need glasses so you continue to be good at keeping us on our toes!

We love you!


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Falafel

I bought those boxes of add-your-own-water falafel mix for a long time.  They were yummy but when I realized how easy it is to make my own, I never looked back!  I make falafel about once a month but Hubby and I agree I could make it more. 

We love them tucked into a pita with lettuce, tomato, and tzatziki sauce.  Oliver likes them too (for him I use the little pita wedges you see in the pictures), which I think is awesome. 

INGREDIENTS

19-oz can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)

1 small onion, chopped

3 or 4 garlic cloves

2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (or a tablespoon of dried)

2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (or a tablespoon of dried)

1 1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp salt

pinch dried chili flakes

1/4 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

DIRECTIONS

Put the first eight ingredients in a food processer; pulse until combined but not yet smooth.  Add flour and baking powder; pulse until mixture is soft and can be rolled into little balls without sticking much to the hands.  Add more flour if necessary. 

Roll into meatball-sized balls.  Flatten into patties if desired.  I have found patties easier to fry and easier to tuck into a pita. 

Heat a bit of oil and fry on each side until golden.  I sometimes have to add some more oil between batches. 

Tuck them in a pita with some tzatziki sauce, lettuce, tomato, and munch away!